Physical communication is key in the face of COVID19

Along with health and safety-challenges this back-to-school season, social distancing and masks have created obstacles for interpersonal communication and relationship building. Each year, more than half of Butler Tech’s campus students are new to the district, coming from one of the eleven associate high schools across the county. This fusion of students creates opportunities for new relationships and experiences but during the pandemic, students and staff have had to find creative ways to connect.

Cy Wood, Vocal Music and Theatre Instructor at Butler Tech’s School of the Arts is relying heavily on a physical communication tactic he developed several years ago. He is using personalized gestures for each student to help the class learn each other’s names and the personalities that lie behind the masks.

“I just created this individualized gesture concept a few years ago, and having these signs for each student has been extremely helpful this year with the large teaching space, being socially distant, and masks covering the mouths,” explained Cy. “I rely on physical communication a ton for my own understanding of how my students feel because I want to make sure I can understand them on a deep level.”

By including the gesture the students create for themselves and adding that to the verbal communications limited by COVID, Cy feels it has been extremely helpful for him and the students to learn and connect with one another.

“It has been a good way to break the ice and begin to identify the students’ personalities. I’m looking forward to implementing this into lessons and games we play later in the year which involve other types of non-verbal communication. It’s really fun!” said Cy.